Some of the most groundbreaking scientific discoveries happened by accident and now there’s another one to add to the list. A team of researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has accidently created a material that can capture water from the humidity in the air. They were trying to create magnetic nanowires and failed, but this new material they created is even more promising.
The material is made of carbon-rich nanorods, which they observed began oozing water whenever the humidity in the specimen holder ranged from 50 to 80 percent. They vigorously tested the findings, and discovered that the nanorods absorb water in low humidity and release it as water vapor when the humidity is high. The researches describe this material as behaving much like a sponge, in the sense that it is capable of wringing itself out halfway before it’s fully saturated with water.
As such the material could be used for low-energy water harvesting and purification in arid and developing regions. It can also be used to create sports clothing with even better moisture wicking capabilities. However, before the material can be applied towards these goals, they still have to find a way to control the size and shape of the nanorods size and, as well as clearly determine why the nanorods act like a sponge that wrings itself out in high humidity.
Once they fully understand the phenomenon, and are able to reliably recreate it, this material will be used to harvest drinking water in areas where it is scarce. Needless to say, this will change the world for the better, so hopefully they’ll figure it out soon!